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Slovene Suplement, Vol. 13 - 2006, Suplement

Feminist Interpretations of the Public in Habermas's Theory

, pages: 21-36

The article discusses feminist interpretations of Habermasian publicness in terms of (1) bourgeois public sphere, (2) theory of communicative action, (3) dualistic conception of society (the lifeworld/the system), and (4) deliberative democracy. Feminist authors criticise Habermas for not acknowledging that the exclusion of women was not just an accident of the bourgeois public sphere, but that the public sphere of the 19th century was constituted on the exclusion. The feminist critique of Habermas’s understanding of communicative action emphasizes his technical understanding of rationality, which abstracts from, and delegitimises particularities of nonlinguistic forms of communicative action. Feminists reproach Habermas for arguing in favour of the purity of the lifeworld (its separation from the system), which leads him to set up a rigid dualistic theory of society. In reflections on Habermas’s deliberative democracy authors point out that deliberation is conceived of in a procedural manner that gives a privileged status to institutional action in deliberative democracy over other citizen actions. The significance of the feminist critique is in questioning the principle of exclusion – the dimension of the public/ness which is not in the focus of Habermas’s theory. This approach leads to interpretations, which in places are too hasty and imprecise, while at the same time it enables the emergence of some alternative understandings of the public/ness and reveal feminist attempts to “rehabilitate” the public/ness as an open and diverse phenomenon of citizen’s action.

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